Max Oxley’s review published on Letterboxd:
I recommend you watch this in a triple bill with A Single Man and A Serious Man, inevitably resulting in you and all your friends committing hari-kiri due to immense title confusion.
It's a funny thing when an established auteur decides to restrain their own directorial individualism for a film that turns out to be rather impressive anyway. The Elephant Man and The Straight Story are both critically acclaimed through the roof, but you'll rarely see them at the top of any 'David Lynch Ranked' lists. Same goes for Tarantino's Jackie Brown, even if that does seem to have undergone some notable reappraisal in the past few years. However, I think Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan, a film I had not even heard of until tonight, may be the strongest example of a fantastic but modest little film that has been crowded out by it's louder, more daring siblings.
That isn't to say A Simple Plan is without style; In fact, in an alternate universe it could be an early Coen bros flick, or even a visually bare Fincher film, if the focus centred more on the characters' mental trauma and not the seemingly constant standoffs. My point is, at no point did this feel in any way like a Sam Raimi film, which came as a shock as I went in partially blind, only knowing who the director was and a short dvd blurb. Whether this is the reason for this film's apparent obscurity or not, it's a shame, because this is a fantastic moral thriller that only gets more nail biting as it progresses.
Of course, it helps that the story is so universal and anyone other than perhaps Ned Flanders would find themselves in the same quandary as the main characters are forced to deal with here; what would you do if you found an inordinate amount of money in the woods, with seemingly little chance of getting caught or your actions having direct victims? Some of us would probably like to think we'd immediately hand it into the police, but when faced with the situation in front of your face, I guarantee that little devil on your right shoulder would have something to say about it. Obviously, plot dictates that the characters understandably take the money and from that point on are faced with tougher and tougher moral dilemmas until shit gets fatal.
The whole cast is top notch, but Billy Bob Thornton is particularly outstanding as the Lennie to Bill Paxton's George (that one's for my GCSE English people), the voice of innocent morality in a world where morals are actively discouraged, and of course, he is eventually a sacrifice to the unrelenting Gods of plot. But even when the other characters begin committing moral atrocities, it's hard not to root for them to some extent. Even nice people get greedy sometimes and we want greed to have its place in the sun. Though I will say some of the decisions made by Paxton and his wife (Bridget Fonda) do beggar belief and make me wonder if I would have managed significantly better in their situation. I mean, Paxton taping Brent Briscoe 'confessing' to killing a guy just in case Briscoe goes to the cops and EVEN THOUGH said cops had already decided the guy's death was an accident seems blatantly unnecessary, especially when Paxton tells Briscoe he's been taping him immediately afterwards. Did you not expect him to react to you essentially framing him for murder? Come on now, Bill.
Anyway, watch A Simple Plan not necessarily if you're a fan of Raimi's, more if you're a fan of the Coens. And who the hell isn't a fan of the Coens???? Watching this ASAP seems like A SIMPLE PLAN to me!!! *audience applauds, we fade to black, end theme music plays*